News: Working group meets to shape health, education is western Afghanistan
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
HERAT, Afghanistan - Government representatives from Kabul and western Afghanistan met at Camp Arena, Herat province, Nov. 24, to discuss issues related to health care and education in the western provinces.
The Regional Command West Development and Governance Working Group was established by the International Security Assistance Force RC West to create a common forum to optimize efforts to effectively execute development projects in western Afghanistan. This was the 4th annual working group.
Nowrooz Haqmal, representative for the minister of public health, and Omar Azize, representing the minister of education, met with provincial government representatives from all four western provinces.
After the meeting, representatives from Herat and Ghor separated from those representing Badghis and Farah to discuss needs, problems and strategies focusing more on specific regions. Relevant provincial reconstruction teams, made up of Italian, Spanish and U.S. service members, also attended the working groups.
"A lot has already been done but strategies and paperwork are no longer enough," said Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, Herat's governor. "Now we need to make these strategies into working plans and actual results locally ... on our own streets."
Mohammad Youris Rosouli, Farah's deputy governor, later explained the problems his province faces.
"Hundreds of schools in Farah do not have electricity and access to drinkable water," said Rosouli. "Our children cannot receive a proper education with these shortcomings."
According to Azize, as a nation, the education system in Afghanistan has come a long way in the past decade. Nine years ago fewer than one million boys were enrolled in a total of 3,400 general (or public) schools. There were only 20,700 teachers nation-wide.
"The education system was not responsive to the needs of the population," said Azize.
In addition to a seven-fold increase in enrollment, the number of teachers expanded eight fold, bringing the number of educators into the public school system to about 170,000. Thirty percent of those teachers are female.
Nearly 65,000 students are also studying in 24 higher-education institutions, also a rare sight in years gone by.
"What's astonishing is that [more than] 90,000 students graduate from the 12th grade in 2009," said Azize. "Twenty-seven percent of those were female."